The University of Oklahoma and Iowa State University hope to harness natural resources like methane and biomass to produce hydrogen.

Researchers at both universities will study the potential byproducts and applications of solid carbon that might result from effectively generating hydrogen energy. The four-year project is being funded by $4 million from the National Science Foundation.

Hydrogen production by pyrolysis – breaking apart natural gas into hydrogen and solid carbon – is enticing for engineers, as this method produces hydrogen with a low carbon emission intensity footprint and can create solid carbon byproducts.

A key drawback of pyrolysis, however, is the large amount of energy that is needed to break up the molecules in the absence of any catalyst, but this is one way the biomass could help.  

Researchers noted excitement around hydrogen in power generation as an alternative to directly combusting fossil fuel sources.

“There’s a strong drive to create energy without creating the side effect of global warming, but we still have a need for cost-effective energy for our society,” said Steven P. Crossley, professor at the Gallogly College of Engineering at OU. “One of the really promising avenues is to convert the carbon that is in these forms of diverse natural resources into solid carbon and extract the hydrogen as our energy source.”

The researchers are also studying many different applications, like soil amendments to sequester long-lived carbon in the environment and help crops grow, evaluating their use as water filtration systems to help clean water.

The project is expected to be complete by July 31, 2026. At the University of Oklahoma, the team includes Crossley and coinvestigators Bin Wang, Daniel Resasco, and Ngoc Bui. Collaborators at Iowa State University include Jean-Philippe Tessonnier, Mark Wright, and Eric Cochran. 

More on the grant here.

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